A Better Way: Responding to the Darkness

On any given day, reading the headlines may make you wonder if the darkness has finally won. Whether news of wars, earthquakes, military coups, sexual scandals, gun violence, financial malfeasance, another outbreak of that illness, a godless agenda gaining traction among the masses, or any other myriad of news stories that make our blood pressure rise and our stomachs churn, how will we as Christians respond? Will we fight back with the same weapons of angry rhetoric wielded by the enemy? Will we retreat into the safety of a group of people who think and act just like we do? Or will we turn to Scripture and the gospel to find a better way? 

Cease from Anger

Do not be agitated by evildoers;
do not envy those who do wrong. . . .
Refrain from anger and give up your rage;
do not be agitated—it can only bring harm. (Psalm 37:1, 8)

Outrage has become the order of the day. No matter the topic, our society has decided that rage is the way to deal with basically all disagreements. And we’re given all sorts of platforms from which to spew this vitriol. Sadly, it’s not just the world that has taken to this type of response against news that doesn’t meet with their approval. We believers are just as guilty. While this may start as righteous anger, before long we’ve moved into the same modes of outrage and indignation perpetrated by the world itself. Perhaps it’s an angry tweet or post, or maybe it’s a bitter diatribe that sounds as hateful and spiteful as anything the world puts out.

Psalm 37 gives us no indication as to the historical context of its writing, but David cautions his listeners—and undoubtedly his own heart—to put away anger. Though evil may seem to be winning the day, a rageful response is not the godly one. We as Christians must heed the words not only of King David, but of the apostles and even the Savior Himself: 

  • “Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice” (Eph. 4:31).
  • “My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness” (James 1:19–20).
  • “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Whoever insults his brother or sister will be subject to the court. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hellfire” (Matt. 5:21–22).

Anger is a big deal. Responding to unrighteous news in an unrighteous way does nothing to advance the kingdom. We must pursue a better way. 

Remember Your God

As David grapples with the problem of evil, he keeps returning to one major theme: the righteous trust the everlasting God. He gives several commands throughout Psalm 37: 

  • Trust in the Lord (v. 3).
  • Take delight in the Lord (v. 4).
  • Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him (v. 5).
  • Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for him (v. 7).
  • Wait for the Lord and keep his way (v. 34).

It’s clear enough from this list that true believers in Yahweh deal with the “problem of evil” by surrendering their agenda to an all-wise God because they rest in His promises. Repeatedly throughout this psalm, David promises that the righteous will “inherit the land.” This may seem a curious phrase. After all, though a few enemies still remained, God’s chosen people were already dwelling in the Promised Land. Why would David hold this promise out as if it hadn’t already been delivered? 

David must be referring to a reality greater than the terra firma of Canaan. This promise is more than just the land of milk and honey over which he reigned as king. This promise, like all promises, finds its ultimate “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). The crucified Savior purchased for us the land of the new heaven and the new earth. He purchased Eden 2.0, the land for which our redeemed bodies were created. 

We must trust this God who would deliver such a great promise through delivering His only Son to the cross on our behalf. We trust that the life expectancy of wickedness is but a few moments when compared with the eternal inheritance we have received in the Son of David. 

When the bad news comes—and it will—don’t get angry or agitated. Rest and trust. Take refuge in the One who has already crushed the head of the serpent. 

Do Good

Refraining from anger and trusting in God are good. They’re necessary. They’re imperative. But they do not stand alone. David recognizes a second ditch our fleshly hearts will veer into after they’ve climbed out of the ditch of anger: the ditch of insulation. 

It is from this ditch that I write to you today. While I cringe at the headlines, I don’t (usually) get too angry about them. I’m not generally tempted to write anything particularly sardonic or caustic about current events. Instead, I love the safety of my own comfort zone. I prefer relationships with fellow believers, people who think and believe like I do. I struggle to step out of this bubble and into the hearts and lives of neighbors in need. 

But I must. God did not leave me here to be merely a decoration in the church. He has given me years of life on this side of salvation to expand His kingdom. That’s what David calls us to as well in Psalm 37: 

  • Do good (v.3).
  • Give graciously (v. 21).
  • Speak wisdom (v. 30).
  • Utter justice (v. 37).

This is the response of the believer to the victories of the world. We cling to the God who has saved us and promised us an inheritance; and then we boldly go out into the darkness to do good to the very wicked ones who plot against us (Psalm 37:12). 

Yes, this is countercultural. Everything in our society gives us permission to hate, but the Savior tells us to love. This is the sermon preached by Joseph as he forgave his murderous brothers in Egypt, ultimately telling them that what they had meant for evil, God meant for good (Gen. 50:20). It’s the cry of the dying Savior as He forgave the thief next to Him and asked that the jeering crowd be forgiven of their sins (Luke 23:43, 34). It’s the message of Stephen, who amid the stones hurled at his broken and bleeding body, cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60). In short, this is the gospel: 

For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. (Rom. 5:10, emphasis added)

The darkness seems to gain strength with every new headline that flashes across our screens. May we pursue this better way and respond with the faith and love of the Savior. 

May 31 marks the end of our fiscal year, and your much-needed support will help us continue producing life-transforming teaching through our podcasts, broadcasts, and biblical resources. As our thanks for your gift of any amount, we’d like to send you the first volume of (Un)Remarkable: Ten Ordinary Women Who Impacted Their World for Christ. We’ll also send you a digital copy of volume 2, to be released in print later this year. We can’t wait to get these stories of women whose lives pointed others to Christ into your hands.

About the Author

Cindy Matson

Cindy Matson

Cindy Matson lives in a small Minnesota town with her husband, son and daughter, and ridiculous black dog. She enjoys reading books, drinking coffee, and coaching basketball. You can read more of her musings about God's Word at biblestudynerd.com.

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